MGM Resorts International is just weeks away from finalizing its $850 million acquisition of the Yonkers Raceway in New York State, along with its adjoining Empire City Casino — and locals are aching to know what the casino giant has planned for its new acquisition.

Yonkers Raceway

The historic Yonkers Raceway and its adjoining Empire City Casino will soon fall into the clutches of MGM Resorts International whose plans for the property are the source of much local speculation. (Image: Stephen Schmitt/The Journal News)

But the operator is keeping mum. When Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle contacted MGM this week eager for clues, it declined to comment, at least until it receives final approval of the deal from gaming regulators.

Meanwhile, Yonkers mayor Mike Spano doesn’t know what MGM’s planning either, although he was at least able to confirm to The D&C it was planning something.

“I’ve had a number of conversations with them,” he confided. “Clearly, they are very guarded about what their plans are. That being said, they have said over and over again that they do have plans and that they’re huge plans.”

From what The D&C could glean, MGM’s huge plans for the property probably involve a hotel and theater as well as “other entertainment options.”

Eyeing Full Casino License

This is the casino giant’s first foray into the New York casino market — a property that lies just 15 miles from Times Square — and it will want to make a splash.

The facility will compete with Genting’s Resorts World Catskills, around 85 miles upstate. While the raceway, which opened in 1898, is closer to Manhattan, Resorts World has the advantage of being a full-fledged casino. The Empire City Casino merely offers slots-style video lottery machines and electronic table games — although profitably and in large numbers.

New York imposed a five-year moratorium on the creation of casino licenses downstate, which began when four upstate casinos opened last year, but there is scope for lawmakers to pass a bill to reverse that decision.

Full-blown casino gaming must be the ultimate goal for MGM and a big “statement” investment in its new acquisition is a good way to go about securing that.

Hotel in Offing

The property’s current owners, the Rooney family, of Pittsburgh Steelers fame, wanted to add a hotel tower, but could never club together the financing — not a problem for MGM.

Insiders say a date of January 3 has been earmarked for the deal’s completion, after which MGM might be more forthcoming about its plans. In the meantime, Spano is just happy to fantasize about the money operator will very probably splurge on its mystery improvements.

“It’s a world-class entertainment venue, and it’s right here in our city, which is in the heart of the metropolitan area,” Spano said. “It could be really good for Yonkers because of the investment they can make because they have deep pockets.”